John Fetterman might be losing a race that was his to lose

(dis)United Kingdom

Prime minister


Fig. 1. President Reagan on the South Lawn during the arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom. U.S. Government photograph, November 16, 1988, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

To say that Liz Truss’ austerity project[1] is not going well would be to understate the political calamity she now faces as she throws her chancellor to the wolves[2] in a likely futile attempt to save her own premiership.[3] It seems developments have been rapid:[4]

As I write, Prime Minister Liz Truss is preparing to host a 2pm press conference at which she will announce that corporation tax will rise to 25 per cent this spring, as had been originally planned.

The about-turn means she is abandoning one of the flagship tax cut promises from her Tory leadership campaign and the mini-Budget – and indeed reinstates a policy originally championed by her leadership rival Rishi Sunak. . . .

What. A. Mess. Where are the grown-ups in 10 Downing Street? Why can’t Truss’s team act and behave like an administration with a working majority of around 70 in the Commons?

The next 48 hours are absolutely crucial for Truss. Even her allies are deserting her.

One Tory MP who backed her through all five leadership rounds told me this morning: “I think her leadership authority is now shattered. Party discipline has totally broken down.”[5]

This kind of flailing[6] almost never ends well for the flailers and indeed there is already speculation about who might replace Truss.[7] But because Truss is so new in the job, a rules change will be needed for the Tories to oust her:[8]

If enough MPs submitted no confidence letters in the Prime Minister, then the 1922 executive would have little choice but to act.

Reports have suggested Sir Graham [Brady] is reluctant to change the rules and would only do so in the face of overwhelming demand.

He may even stipulate that as many as 178 MPs – half of the parliamentary party – submitted no confidence letters before acting.[9]

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and unlike the Democrats in the U.S.,[10] the Tories evidently very much prefer being in power;[11] a poll showing a 33-point lead for Labour[12] focuses their minds.

Nick Gutteridge, “1922 Committee rules: How Tory MPs could oust Liz Truss,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/tory-mps-plotting-coronation-new-leader-replace-liz-truss/

Nick Gutteridge, “The runners and riders for PM if Liz Truss is ousted as Tory leader,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/runners-riders-pm-liz-truss-ousted-tory-leader/

Szu Ping Chan, “Kwasi Kwarteng cuts short Washington trip as axe looms over mini-Budget,” Telegraph, October 14, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/14/kwasi-kwarteng-cuts-short-washington-trip-axe-looms-mini-budget/

Larry Elliott, “Kwasi Kwarteng dashes home early from US amid tax U-turn chaos,” Guardian, October 14, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/14/kwasi-kwarteng-dashes-home-early-from-us-amid-tax-u-turn-chaos

Steve Goldstein, “Kwasi Kwarteng says he has accepted decision to stand aside as chancellor,” MarketWatch, October 14, 2022, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/kwasi-kwarteng-says-he-has-accepted-decision-to-stand-aside-as-chancellor-2022-10-14


Gilead

Donald Trump

Coup attempt


Fig. 2. Original: The White House. Derivative work: J. J. Messerly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

I haven’t really had the occasion to talk about this so I guess now is as good a time as any.

I am seeing a few more yard signs and flags in support of Donald Trump around southwest Pennsylvania lately. They remain far less common than before the Mar-a-Lago search. Most, but not all, are of the “Don’t Blame Me; I Voted For Trump” variety.

Along this vein, I’m seeing a few signs supporting Doug Mastriano for governor unaccompanied by those supporting Mehmet Oz. The sense I have of the race for the U.S. Senate race between Oz and John Fetterman is that Fetterman’s momentum stopped dead cold with the stroke and this campaign is exposing all of his weaknesses. I’m a lot more concerned about how this race may turn out than earlier.

Areeba Shah, “Legal experts: Russia link to Trump documents means it’s a matter of ‘when, not if’ he is indicted,” Salon, October 11, 2022, https://www.salon.com/2022/10/11/legal-experts-link-to-documents-means-its-a-matter-of-when-not-if-he-is-indicted/

Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, “Trump worker told FBI about moving Mar-a-Lago boxes on ex-president’s orders,” Washington Post, October 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/12/maralago-witness-trump-boxes-moved/

Robert Barnes and Perry Stein, “Supreme Court rejects Trump request on Mar-a-Lago documents,” Washington Post, October 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/13/supreme-court-trump-mar-a-lago-classified-documents/

Ariane de Vogue and Katelyn Polantz, “Supreme Court rejects former President Donald Trump’s request to intervene in Mar-a-Lago documents fight,” Cable News Network, October 13, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/13/politics/supreme-court-trump-mar-a-lago/index.html

Ashley Parker, “Jan. 6 hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise,” Washington Post, October 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/14/trump-knew-he-lost-jan-6/

Competitive authoritarian regime project


Fig. 3. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Clarence Mitchell during signing ceremony of the voting rights act. Yoichi Okamoto, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Viktor Orbán lost an election in 2002 but has now been “Prime Minister [of Hungary] since 2010, is now the longest-serving head of state in the European Union, and [is] one of the most fiercely nativist and traditionalist.”[13]

“You do not have to have emergency powers or a military coup for democracy to wither,” Aziz Huq, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Chicago, told me [Andrew Marantz]. “Most recent cases of backsliding, Hungary being a classic example, have occurred through legal means.” [Viktor] Orbán runs for reëlection every four years. In theory, there is a chance that he could lose. In practice, he has so thoroughly rigged the system that his grip on power is virtually assured. The political-science term for this is “competitive authoritarianism.” Most scholarly books about democratic backsliding (“The New Despotism,” “Democracy Rules,” “How Democracies Die”) cite Hungary, along with Brazil and Turkey, as countries that were consolidated democracies, for a while, before they started turning back the clock.[14]

The parallel with Donald Trump and the reason for a competitive authoritarian regime is apparent:

Please recognize that President Donald Trump was in a unique position, better informed about the absence of widespread election fraud than almost any other American president. Trump’s own campaign experts told him that there was no evidence to support his claims. His own Justice Department appointees investigated the election fraud claims and told him — point blank — they were false. In mid-December 2020, President Trump’s senior advisers told him the time had come to concede the election. Donald Trump knew the courts had ruled against him.

He had all of this information, but still, he made the conscious choice to claim fraudulently that the election was stolen.[15]

Trump could not tolerate the reality that he had lost to Joe Biden.[16] And just as Orbán has ensured that he will never lose again, Republicans have long sought the same for themselves.

The crucial aspect here is that electoral results take second place to a particular self-righteousness. In Trump’s case, it is likely simply his narcissistic ego.[17] For illiberals generally, it is a right-wing ideology, often white Christian nationalism. The epistemological foundation is not popularity, as reflected in election results, or empirical, but rather the way things should be, according to some morality, be it a selective reading (always selective) of religious scripture, be it capitalism, be it “tradition,” be it anything else.[18]

Ashley Parker, “Jan. 6 hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise,” Washington Post, October 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/14/trump-knew-he-lost-jan-6/


Albertson’s

Kroger might be coming to a location near you.[19] On the other hand, they might already be there, just under another name.[20]

It’s an odd thing that Kroger always has my attention. When my parents and I lived in Pittsburgh, specifically Mount Lebanon, and I went to the store to pick up bread or milk, I’d go down to a store on Beverly Road. It’s no longer there. That space has, according to one of my passengers, since been divided into spaces now occupied by a Mexican restaurant (which he said he owns) and a coffee house.

My parents would do the main grocery shopping at a Kroger by where Cochran Road ends at Greentree Road in Scott Township. Kroger having left southwest Pennsylvania some years ago due to labor issues,[21] a Giant Eagle (one of the less vegan-hostile locations) now occupies an expanded space (you can still see the outline of the original store inside) at the latter location.

I can still visit Kroger stores in West Virginia and Ohio.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, operates 2,750 grocery stores across the United States under banners that include Ralphs, Dillons and Harris Teeter and has a market capitalization of about $32 billion. Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho, runs 2,200 supermarkets under names like Albertsons, Safeway and Vons and has a market capitalization of roughly $15 billion.[22]

But now Kroger is buying Albertson’s[23] which had also merged with Lucky,[24] which itself had purchased Gemco and sold off most of those stores (they became Target locations),[25] as part of an long-ongoing consolidation in the grocery business in a deal which will likely attract antitrust attention, but, given the remaining competition in the grocery business, I’m guessing will ultimately go through in some form.[26]

It’s really all a very different picture from when I was a kid, which makes my attention somewhat delusional.

Lauren Hirsch and Julie Creswell, “Grocery Giants Kroger and Albertsons Are Said to Be in Merger Talks,” New York Times, October 13, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/business/kroger-albertsons-merger-talks.html

Cara Lombardo and Jaewon Kang, “Kroger and Albertsons in Deal Talks to Create Supermarket Powerhouse,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-and-albertsons-in-deal-talks-to-create-supermarket-giant-11665675587

Jaewon Kang, “Kroger to Buy Albertsons in $24.6 Billion Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-to-merge-with-albertsons-in-a-24-6-billion-deal-11665745735


  1. [1]David Benfell, “‘O ye of little faith,’ the British are doing supply side economics again,” Not Housebroken, September 29, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/09/29/o-ye-of-little-faith-the-british-are-doing-supply-side-economics-again/
  2. [2]Szu Ping Chan, “Kwasi Kwarteng cuts short Washington trip as axe looms over mini-Budget,” Telegraph, October 14, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/14/kwasi-kwarteng-cuts-short-washington-trip-axe-looms-mini-budget/; Larry Elliott, “Kwasi Kwarteng dashes home early from US amid tax U-turn chaos,” Guardian, October 14, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/14/kwasi-kwarteng-dashes-home-early-from-us-amid-tax-u-turn-chaos; Steve Goldstein, “Kwasi Kwarteng says he has accepted decision to stand aside as chancellor,” MarketWatch, October 14, 2022, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/kwasi-kwarteng-says-he-has-accepted-decision-to-stand-aside-as-chancellor-2022-10-14
  3. [3]Nick Gutteridge, “1922 Committee rules: How Tory MPs could oust Liz Truss,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/tory-mps-plotting-coronation-new-leader-replace-liz-truss/; Nick Gutteridge, “The runners and riders for PM if Liz Truss is ousted as Tory leader,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/runners-riders-pm-liz-truss-ousted-tory-leader/
  4. [4]Christopher ‘Chopper’ Hope to Chopper’s Politics list, “Liz Truss’s premiership is in severe peril,” Telegraph, October 14, 2022, https://m5.emails.telegraph.co.uk/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%402F4Tz%2BldBsw6FWX7UjCvUO1ob1%2FGHFjZjUjZv9c%2BZHTRSxkJ9DBMPdXk%2B16JGa6iHl2c%2FAflfxfy3pXfhAfPHg%3D%3D&WT.mc_id=e_DM48266&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FrB_New&utmsource=email
  5. [5]Christopher ‘Chopper’ Hope to Chopper’s Politics list, “Liz Truss’s premiership is in severe peril,” Telegraph, October 14, 2022, https://m5.emails.telegraph.co.uk/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%402F4Tz%2BldBsw6FWX7UjCvUO1ob1%2FGHFjZjUjZv9c%2BZHTRSxkJ9DBMPdXk%2B16JGa6iHl2c%2FAflfxfy3pXfhAfPHg%3D%3D&WT.mc_id=e_DM48266&WT.tsrc=email&etype=Edi_FrB_New&utmsource=email
  6. [6]Aubrey Allegretti and Patrick Butler, “Liz Truss on verge of major U-turn on real-terms benefits cut,” Guardian, October 9, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/09/liz-truss-on-verge-of-major-u-turn-on-real-terms-benefits-cut; Szu Ping Chan, “Kwasi Kwarteng cuts short Washington trip as axe looms over mini-Budget,” Telegraph, October 14, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/14/kwasi-kwarteng-cuts-short-washington-trip-axe-looms-mini-budget/; Pippa Crerar, Peter Walker, and Phillip Inman, “Liz Truss to hold emergency talks with OBR after failing to calm markets,” Guardian, September 29, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/29/liz-truss-to-hold-emergency-talks-with-obr-after-failing-to-calm-markets; Larry Elliott, “Kwasi Kwarteng dashes home early from US amid tax U-turn chaos,” Guardian, October 14, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/14/kwasi-kwarteng-dashes-home-early-from-us-amid-tax-u-turn-chaos; Steve Goldstein, “Kwasi Kwarteng says he has accepted decision to stand aside as chancellor,” MarketWatch, October 14, 2022, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/kwasi-kwarteng-says-he-has-accepted-decision-to-stand-aside-as-chancellor-2022-10-14; Greg Ip, “The Return of Inflation Makes Deficits More Dangerous,” Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-return-of-inflation-makes-deficits-more-dangerous-11664366538; Jill Lawless, “UK scraps tax cut for wealthy that sparked market turmoil,” Associated Press, October 3, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/business-financial-markets-liz-truss-0acea0ad013e41524c8be3981654b922; Rowena Mason et al., “Truss’s cabinet in open warfare over key policies and coup accusations,” Guardian, October 4, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/oct/04/kwasi-kwarteng-fiscal-plan-date-thrown-into-confusion; Andrew Rawnsley, “Johnson was slow-poisoning arsenic for the Conservatives. Liz Truss is instant cyanide,” Guardian, October 9, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/oct/09/johnson-was-slow-poisoning-arsenic-for-tories-liz-truss-is-instant-cyanide; Heather Stewart, “Stick, twist … or sack Kwasi Kwarteng? The choices facing Liz Truss,” Guardian, September 28, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/28/stick-twist-or-sack-kwasi-kwarteng-the-choices-facing-liz-truss; Adam Taylor, “Kwasi Kwarteng and the ideology behind the British pound’s collapse,” Washington Post, September 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/09/29/kwasi-kwarteng-ideology-behind-british-pounds-collapse/; Telegraph, “Labour surges to 33-point poll lead over Tories in wake of market turmoil,” September 30, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/09/30/labour-surges-33-point-poll-lead-tories-wake-market-turmoil/; Esther Webber, Hannah Brenton, and Eleni Courea, “Liz Truss panics as markets keep plunging,” Politico, October 11, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/britain-economy-liz-truss-mistakes-markets-tax-kwarteng/
  7. [7]Nick Gutteridge, “The runners and riders for PM if Liz Truss is ousted as Tory leader,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/runners-riders-pm-liz-truss-ousted-tory-leader/
  8. [8]Nick Gutteridge, “1922 Committee rules: How Tory MPs could oust Liz Truss,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/tory-mps-plotting-coronation-new-leader-replace-liz-truss/
  9. [9]Nick Gutteridge, “1922 Committee rules: How Tory MPs could oust Liz Truss,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/tory-mps-plotting-coronation-new-leader-replace-liz-truss/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, September 2, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  11. [11]Nick Gutteridge, “1922 Committee rules: How Tory MPs could oust Liz Truss,” Telegraph, October 13, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/10/13/tory-mps-plotting-coronation-new-leader-replace-liz-truss/
  12. [12]Telegraph, “Labour surges to 33-point poll lead over Tories in wake of market turmoil,” September 30, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/09/30/labour-surges-33-point-poll-lead-tories-wake-market-turmoil/
  13. [13]Zsuzsanna Szelényi, “How Viktor Orbán Built His Illiberal State,” New Republic, April 5, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165953/viktor-orban-built-illiberal-state
  14. [14]Andrew Marantz, “Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?” New Yorker, June 27, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/07/04/does-hungary-offer-a-glimpse-of-our-authoritarian-future
  15. [15]Liz Cheney, quoted in Ashley Parker, “Jan. 6 hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise,” Washington Post, October 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/14/trump-knew-he-lost-jan-6/
  16. [16]Ashley Parker, “Jan. 6 hearing shows Trump knew he lost — even while claiming otherwise,” Washington Post, October 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/14/trump-knew-he-lost-jan-6/
  17. [17]George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counselling Resource, July 24, 2017, https://counsellingresource.com/features/2017/07/24/understanding-narcissistic-rage/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  19. [19]Jaewon Kang, “Kroger to Buy Albertsons in $24.6 Billion Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-to-merge-with-albertsons-in-a-24-6-billion-deal-11665745735
  20. [20]Lauren Hirsch and Julie Creswell, “Grocery Giants Kroger and Albertsons Are Said to Be in Merger Talks,” New York Times, October 13, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/business/kroger-albertsons-merger-talks.html
  21. [21]Associated Press, “Kroger Selling Stores in Strike,” New York Times, February 14, 1984, https://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/14/business/kroger-selling-stores-in-strike.html
  22. [22]Lauren Hirsch and Julie Creswell, “Grocery Giants Kroger and Albertsons Are Said to Be in Merger Talks,” New York Times, October 13, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/business/kroger-albertsons-merger-talks.html
  23. [23]Jaewon Kang, “Kroger to Buy Albertsons in $24.6 Billion Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-to-merge-with-albertsons-in-a-24-6-billion-deal-11665745735
  24. [24]Melinda Fulmer, “Lucky Stores to Become Albertsons,” Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1999, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-nov-03-fi-29443-story.html
  25. [25]Denise Gellene, “Lucky to Close Gemco, Sell Most Stores to Dayton Hudson,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1986, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-10-10-fi-5075-story.html
  26. [26]Lauren Hirsch and Julie Creswell, “Grocery Giants Kroger and Albertsons Are Said to Be in Merger Talks,” New York Times, October 13, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/business/kroger-albertsons-merger-talks.html; Jaewon Kang, “Kroger to Buy Albertsons in $24.6 Billion Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-to-merge-with-albertsons-in-a-24-6-billion-deal-11665745735; Cara Lombardo and Jaewon Kang, “Kroger and Albertsons in Deal Talks to Create Supermarket Powerhouse,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/kroger-and-albertsons-in-deal-talks-to-create-supermarket-giant-11665675587

3 thoughts on “John Fetterman might be losing a race that was his to lose

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